West Nile virus returns to Southern California

File photo: A mosquito sits on a stick April 9, 2009 in Martinez, California.
File photo: A mosquito sits on a stick April 9, 2009 in Martinez, California. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

West Nile virus is back in Southern California, and experts say the wet winter has created a good breeding environment for mosquitoes, which transmit the virus.

Two dead birds recently tested positive for the virus, one found in Stevenson Ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley and the other in Silver Lake, according the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District.

"These two West Nile virus positive dead birds are evidence that West Nile virus continues to persist in Los Angeles," said Susanne Kluh of the Vector Control District, which tracks the movements of pests.

The virus, which has no cure but usually does not cause serious illness, is transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. The best way to avoid the virus, according to the vector control and public health officials, is to avoid mosquito bites and to get rid of standing water where the blood-sucking pests breed.

Only about 20 percent of people infected exhibit symptoms, and one in 150 require hospitalization. Serious symptoms include high fever, neck stiffness, paralysis and, in rare cases, death, experts said.

State public health officials started testing dead birds for the virus March 15 and urged people to report dead birds by calling (877) WNV-BIRD or via the Web site www.WestNile.ca.gov.

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